Likert Management System

Likert management system - toolshero

This article provides a practical explanation of the Likert Management System. After reading, you will have a basic understanding of this powerful leadership tool.

What Is the Likert Management System?

The Likert Management System is a theory about the various management styles a manager can adopt within an organisation. In the ’60s, Rensis Likert developed four management styles, intended to describe the relationship, roles and involvement of managers and subordinates in industrial environments. He based his study and the developed systems on studies into highly productive supervisors of an American insurance company, among others. Later, these management styles were revised and are now based on educational institutions. The goal of the new study was to describe the role of school administrators, students and teachers. Eventually, the study also involved others such as administrators, parents and regulators.

The management theory of Rensis Likert added a new dimension to theories and existing ideas about organisational development. For the first time, such a system allowed for the qualification of results of all the research into group dynamics. The Likert Management System also simplifies the measuring of soft skills in managers, such as trust and communication.

The Likert Management System was developed in the ’60s by Rensis Likert and his colleagues at the University of Michigan, United States. Over the span of three decades, over 200 organisations were studied.

Four Leadership Styles

Likert believed that the roles and relationships the management and employees had everything to do with the question of how able a company is to become successful. He also believed that answers to questions can be provided in various degrees. With this mindset, he identified four management styles in the Likert Management System that can vary depending on the manager and the entire organisational environment:

Likert management system leadership styles - toolshero

Exploitative Authoritative

An exploitative-authoritative management system means that responsibility lies with people in higher positions in the hierarchy. The people lower on the ladder, the subordinates, don’t influence the decision making and aren’t involved in this process. The top has little faith in the subordinate and there is no room for discussion in decision-making moments. In such a system, communication occurs straight down, instead of being two-way traffic. The communication that reaches the employees mainly consists of warnings and threats. As a result, only higher management feels responsible for achieving organisational objectives.

Benevolent Authoritative

The benevolent-authoritative management system from the Likert Management System is a form of management in which the responsibility also lies in the top layer in the hierarchy. The main difference with the aforementioned system is that the employees’ motivation has not been induced by means of threats and warnings, but rather through rewards. The superior has more faith in his subordinates and his subordinates receive a reward for their participation. Communication already tends more towards a two-way street, but from employee to superior it remains limited to what the superior would like to hear. In essence, the subordinates don’t feel free to make work-related recommendations or contribute ideas. The result is a lack of communication and teamwork.

Consultative

In the consultative management system, the superior trusts his subordinates substantially, but not completely. He or she demonstrates this trust in his subordinates and constructively uses beliefs and opinions he shares. Employees’ motivation is boosted by rewards and the individual’s level of involvement. It’s known that doing meaningful work strengthens intrinsic motivation. The consultative management system is characterised by an open form of communication. A flow of information flows both horizontally and vertically through the organisation and most subordinates feel free to make work-related ideas or problems known and open for discussion. Although a certain degree of discussion is possible, higher management makes decisions on its own.

Participative

In the participative management system of the Likert Management System, upper management has full trust in the subordinates and encourages them to actively participate in the decision-making process. The employees feel completely free to discuss any issue with their superiors. The participative management system is also characterised by good teamwork and rewards as extrinsic motivation factors. Both the trust of upper management downward and the frequency and level of openness in the communication is high.

Linking Pins

Linking pins form an important component in the Likert Management System. Linking pins are people who play a prominent role in two or more groups at the same time that can integrate with each other when required. A team only needs one member who can serve as a linking pin with other teams or groups so as to form a greater whole.

In addition to the linking pins, Likert uses other organisational characteristics to describe the nature of these four management systems. He included the following variables in the development of the questionnaire he conducted among various employees and managers and at various organisations:

Motivational Forces

The Likert Management System describes how management exerts influence on the employees by means of warnings, threats, or rewards in case of good work. Other motivational forces include salary, non-monetary rewards such as responsibility, possibilities for development or relationships with colleagues or management.

Leadership Processes

Likert researched leadership style. There are various forms of leadership, including autocratic leadership, authentic leadership, strength-based leadership, authoritative leadership and agile leadership. These each have a different effect on the way in which leaders lead.

Communication Processes

The communication style is very telling about the intended power distance within an organisation, particularly from management towards the employees. The Likert Management System also describes other communicative processes for the four different leadership systems. A participative leadership style is characterised by communication, in both directions. In an authoritative leadership style, communication is a one-way street.

Interaction/Influencing Processes

The Likert Management System also clearly demonstrates that the employees have a different level of influence on the goings-on in the various different management styles. In a participative leadership style, the opinions and vision of the employee are actively requested, where this is not at all desired in a benevolent, authoritative leadership style.

Decision-making Processes

In organisations where employees are asked for their input and thoughts on a certain matter, the employees have indirect influence on the decision-making process. In any case, their vision and thoughts are included in the decision-making by upper management. In an authoritative leadership style, however, the employees are not given the opportunity to share their view of the situation. Also in organisations with a flat structure, there is a group or individual that makes the final decision. It’s also possible that decision are made in consultation with the entire team. In that case, the manager has equal say in the decision as the employees who work for him.

Control Processes

The way in which the management checks other employees was also included in Likert’s study of management styles. He discovered that control processes look vastly different at different organisations. One manager may use his entire team to make decisions, whereas another manager independently make all decisions without any consultation.

Now It’s Your Turn

What do you think? Do you recognise the explanation of the Likert Management System? Can you identify the management type that is used in your organisation or work environment? What do you believe are factors that determine which type of management system is used?

Share your experience and knowledge in the comments box below.

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More information

  1. Likert, R. (1967). The human organization: its management and values.
  2. Likert, R., & Likert, J. G. (1976). New ways of managing conflict. McGraw-Hill.
  3. Morris, T., & Pavett, C. M. (1992). Management style and productivity in two cultures. Journal of International Business Studies, 23(1), 169-179.

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Ben Janse
Ben Janse is a young professional working at ToolsHero as Content Manager. He is also an International Business student at Rotterdam Business School where he focusses on analyzing and developing management models. Thanks to his theoretical and practical knowledge, he knows how to distinguish main- and side issues and to make the essence of each article clearly visible.

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